Ask Anything – Social Media – What Is Your Definition And What Should Someone Charge?

- - Ask Anything

Former Art Buyers and current photography consultants Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease have agreed to take anonymous questions from photographers and not only give their expert advice but put it out to a wide range of photographers, reps and art buyers to gather a variety of opinions. The goal with this column is to solicit honest questions and answers through anonymity.


The past week I did 2 separate estimates for different agencies. In my estimates I broke down the usage for print and web, both agencies came back to me and asked if it covered social media. This is the first time I’ve been asked about social media rights and usage. I talked to an AD friend and he suggested I treat it as broadcast. Should there be an extra charge for social media rights/usage ?

Amanda and Suzanne: This is a NEW usage being requested…and we are SO LUCKY to have APE and our AMAZING resources and friends to ask this HOT TOPIC and be able to share this question quickly to our community.


I’m considering social media as web use (unless that social media outlet lives someplace other than the internet) and I wouldn’t expect and probably would not pay an additional fee to use content within social media parameters, if I’m buying a general web use. If I’ve got a smaller budget than I may get very specific with the use in order to still use a preferred photographer, while still working within my budget parameters. However, in my head if it’s specified as (general) web use that includes social media use (as long as it lives on the web).

I think that charging for Broadcast use is way too high. Social Media is typically encompassed within Internet usage. As always, pricing is determined by exposure, uniqueness and the degree of association with a product. One thing to note about Social Media is that there is usually not a blatant advertising message, so there’s often less of a direct association with product. If separated from Internet, the photographer should gauge the degree of association, the uniqueness of the image, and the degree that the imagery itself is delivering the message.

From Wikipedia: “Social media is a term used to describe the type of media that is based on conversation and interaction between people online. Where media means digital words, sounds & pictures which are typically shared via the internet and the value can be cultural, societal or even financial.”
Social Media is web. When I negotiate with an artist, I ask for unlimited web. More people watch TV then scan the social networks so I don’t see this as the same as broadcast.

To Summarize: Social Media should be covered under web usage. You can say Unlimited Web and some might assume that social media will be covered under this. But our advice is to be clear with your wording since this media is a fairly new usage request. Web Usage, including or not including Social Media.

Call To Action: Decide how you feel about the above topic and how you feel comfortable charging for the above. When asked you will be ready to give an appropriate and fair estimate based on your own education from the REAL buyers above.

If you want more insight from Amanda and Suzanne you can contact them directly (here and here) or tune in once a week or so for more of “Ask Anything.”

There Are 28 Comments On This Article.

  1. Lets just say Faceook usage…What if you charged a Facebook fee per fans or friends? Some companies have over a million fans and can reach a lot of people with the images. I’ve thought about charging per fans. 1-500 (fans/friends)=$50
    500-1000= $100,
    5000-10,000=$300 etc.. Feel free to charge your own rates.

  2. I disagree…social media sites should not be lumped in with “web usage.” People have the option of using social media sites or not, just as they have the option of viewing television (broadcast) or not. There is an additional group that would not see the product if it were NOT on a social media site, just as there is a group that would not see the product if it were on broadcast TV.

    There is another element: Social media sites are notorious for allowing work to be stolen.

    If there is a separate charge for TV and print, maybe there should be a subset of charges for social media use. Yeah, I know, the art directors have said they won’t pay for separate social media use…

  3. I don’t think photographers should look at in terms of charging/not charging for “social media”, they should bid out jobs relating to usage rights. Same as we do with print. Such as, the price of one-time usage for company website, one time usage for website and email campaign, full web usage, and so on.
    Then, since it appears, according to this panel, that art buyers won’t even think of paying for “social media usage”, you just charge more for full web usage.

  4. I guess I’m having difficulty grasping the difference between Internet usage and social media usage. Social media is a subset of Internet use. I think it would be tough to sell a client the rights to publish an image on the Web but forbid social media usage.

    The only real distinction I can see is control. If a client is using your images on their own Web site, they can remove the images per whatever contractual arrangements have been agreed upon. For example, if you give them a 2-year unlimited use license you can assume they’ll stop using your images after 24 months or revisit the agreement. The same would hold true if the client is running Web ads using your images.

    Stuff posted to social media sites is typically under the control of the people running the site. You can’t always delete content once it’s been posted. So it’s kind of out there forever (or until the social media site gets tired of archiving it). And I’m going to guess there is a greater probability that people might lift images off a social media site and use them for God knows what.

    I wonder if it would make sense, instead of trying to charge extra for social media use, to stipulate anything used on social media sites contain your photo credit/copyright? I don’t know, just a thought. Making sure that actually happens sounds difficult even if the client agreed to it.

    I suspect we’re just going to have to accept that Web usage probably is going to include social media and charge accordingly.

    • @Tom, I think of it as the relationship between billboards and bus wraps. They are both outdoor media.

      • @shane, I’m not sure that is a good analogy. Billboards and bus wraps are both display advertising vehicles (literally in the latter case). The client would contract with a provider to run the ad for a specific period of time. Your client would have control over how the image was used; presumably that would fall within the terms of whatever use agreement you signed with the client.

        In the case of social media sites, a third party now has control of your image. And that third party most likely has its own terms of use agreement which might not set a high priority on copyright protection.

        I think there are two possible solutions to this problem:

        1. Develop a usage contract that distinguishes between direct and third-party use of your image. It would be great to get a legal opinion on this option. The big downside I see is such an agreement is going to be difficult to enforce and would require the photographer to track every instance of use of an image. If you’ve ever worked for a big company, they often take an act first, think later approach to things. Then you are left trying to sue a big company if they don’t adhere to the terms of your agreement.

        2. Assume Web use of your image is basically making the image available for unrestricted worldwide use and price it accordingly. That way you get compensated up front and you can forget about what happens to the image over time.

        Option 2 makes much more sense to me.

        • @Tom,

          You are correct (in the latter part of your explanation), I was thinking you were saying the social media usage should already be paid for as a subset of web usage. Which is what I still think you are saying in your first paragraph.

          • @shane, I guess what I’m saying is it is when you say “Web” use it’s is going to be hard to make a clean distinction between use on the clients’ own site, paid advertising on other sites and other types of distribution (social media being just one example).

            So you probably should price on the assumption that Web distribution means there will be broad, unrestricted distribution of your image. I guess view it somewhat as you would an image submitted to a stock agency — except you only get paid once, so make it count.

  5. What a great question and discussion. It’s no surprise that the art producers all tend to think that social media usage falls under web usage. Most clients and agencies are reticent to pay for proper web usage rates let alone pay for a whole new subset of use.

    The other posters make good points about many social media website “own” an image once posted so that would open up a legal can of worms I would think. For example if I sell usage right to my client and they post on Facebook and then Facebook has rights to use that image forever, that is not fair to the photographer or the agency.

    Also Tom makes a good point about time usage. In other words, removing the images from social media sites once the usage period has expired. We know this responsibility would be a huge burden for agencies and they would likely not do it.

    Like it or not I would think this falls under web use but that is just one photographers opinion. At the least this discussion makes us think and address this issue in our estimates. Let’s hear from more photographers!

    • @John Early,

      I don’t think Facebook would dare take an ad from and advertiser and use that photo for something else. There will be cases of this, but those cases will probably be small. It would not be good business practice for Facebook to do this. What advertiser would do repeat business after being burned?

      The larger issue here is that “web” usage used to be a small usage years ago. Now it is arguably reaching the same, if not more, consumers than consumer print. The price of a usage should always reflect how many consumers see the ad in that media. Price accordingly….

      • @Erica Chadwick,

        I think the term “Social Media Usage” is not referring to advertising on sites like FB, but instead using the images on the clients profile page on a social site.

        —more comment after the usage terms—-

        Here is Facebooks user terms on posting images.

        “By posting User Content to any part of the Site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable,fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use,copy, publicly perform, publicly … See Moredisplay, reformat, translate, excerpt
        (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof, to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such User Content, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing. You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove
        your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content.”

        And Twitter’s is basically the same.

        Basically what needs to happen here is education of our customers. They need to understand that if we give them usage rights for “Social-Media” we are also granting the host site the broadest possible usage rights. And with the sub license clause, it would be nearly impossible to rein in the image after your clients usage term expires.

        In my opinion: Social Media does NOT fall under general web use. Social media is way too broad, and has uncontrollable 3rd party licensing issues. We as content creators need to take a hard line stance with social media sites, and educate our clients on the facts. Personally, I refuse to post any more images on FB. If I want “friends” to see my images I give direct links to my site. I don’t even let FB parse the link to get a thumbnail.

        As for people spending more time on Tv then the web/social sites… Well youtube usage has now surpassed Prime time tv viewing:

        And do yo think these people are going and watching tv right after a video on You Tube? no they are sharing these videos on FB and twitter etc….

        I don’t have the answer, but I know the answer is not “General Web usage”.

  6. @Erica,

    Totally agree with what you said. Of course FB would not touch images that are ads. However, many businesses use images on their fan pages which are not “Ads.” Those are the images to be concerned about FB using/appropriating. Yes the instances of their doing this would be small or even none, but the idea that they could do that still doesn’t sit right with me and many other photographers.

  7. The the art producer who says more people watch TV than social media makes me facepalm a little.

    It’s quality, not quantity that matters. Yes more eyeballs will see TV. But will those eyeballs go to their computer, click on the link, browse around? Can they be targeted to an audience with the precision like you can on the web?

    Of course not.

    Someday, hopefully soon, the producers stuck in the 20th century wake up and realize this and we can move beyond the backwards nature of charging less for web use.

    It’s all going to be web use pretty soon, so its got to pay the bills.

  8. I actually ran into this issue this past week…but here’s an additional question for this debate.

    I shot a brochure for a corporate client. The individuals I photographed were sales people for this particular company.

    After the shoot the client requested the subjects be able to use their images on their LinkedIn and Facebook pages. I explained that was beyond the usage agreement since would be considered a third party transfer. They were granted web usage but that was for their company branded sites.

    My main concern was that the subjects could use the images as their PR head shot for social media even after the length of their employment with my end client.

    I am supposed to get an updated pricing breakdown to the AE by end of week. I spoke with another photographer friend of mine and we both felt that it should be treated as web based PR usage?

    Am I correct to say that this constitutes a third party usage and charge additional rights?

    Thank you for your help and I really appreciate this column.


  9. Social media is web.

    I think it is quite clear the pricing for web usage should be approriate. It is also quite apparent that image theft can occur on social media sites like twit pic, Facebook and such. Morel vs AFP is the perfect example of how things can go wrong.

    TOS for social media sites should be conisdered, maybe, some of them are pretty liberal and favorable to the site owners. Just some thoughts.

  10. “As always, pricing is determined by exposure, uniqueness and the degree of association with a product.”

    I’m wondering what happens when internet eclipses broadcast in terms of exposure – could be soon. Are internet use fees going to jump? I suspect that eventually we’ll have to simplify the use categories. Internet and Broadcast may have to merge into one since they will essentially be indistinguishable.

  11. Perhaps one should ask whether it is possible to licence an image for “Social Media” without also licencing it for “web” use.

  12. Why is everyone asking if it’s ok to charge for this or for that? Charge what you want to charge and what you think is fair. If you let the client decide what you are allowed to ask for though, they will have you scrambling for peanuts. If you set your prices and stick to them, the client will decide if they are willing to pay your fees or for the rights you are/aren’t granting them. You can always negotiate down, it’s much harder to negotiate up.

    In my opinion, yes I would charge a separate social media fee. If I find I was running into trouble negotiating those fees/rights, I might just raise my web usage fee.

  13. Amanda & Suzanne

    When we say it falls under WEB – it doesn’t mean you just get stuck with a usage that you are not compensated for it. I have to agree with Shawn Lynch and say Charge what you want to charge. It is a WEB usage – meaning it’s on the web. When we say PRINT usage – that does not mean you give all print rights away – you clarify what type of print you are giving the rights to. You will want to do the same when it applied to Social Media. Some buyers ask for ALL WEB or ALL print – clarify what that means to you and the client and charge appropriately. Just the term social media – can be expanded upon like print usages: newspaper, consumer print, trade publications, 2.5 m circ, etc… it’s a media that needs to be spelled out.

    • @Amanda & Suzanne,

      Very interesting. Breaking down web use like print. I like it. And base the “circulation” model on, say, size of social network.

      Perhaps we create an equation for social media “use/circulation”. Something that takes into account the total size of the social website user base vs. total number of “friends/followers/fans” the client has on the site multiplied by some percentage of general web usage rights. Perhaps doing this for each social site they plan to use it on.

      And also deliver an 800px wide, clearly water marked version of final images. With the requisite that these versions are to be used on Social Media sites.

      • Amanda & Suzanne

        @Paul Emberger, This will all depend on what usage is requested and negotiated. In our call to action – sit back and decide how you want to handle this usage.

  14. I think photographers and art producers need to consider the distribution system when fees are being discussed. As others before me have pointed out when you use images in print form size, placement and circulation of image (among other things) should be considered when you charge your fees. If you do not you are going to stay broke or get out of the business. (just my opinion) Similarly with web use, the image may be used in many ways, ways that we do not even for see yet. All business transactions are a negotiation no matter what anyone tells you so don’t give all your value away without showing first how all of your great work can be used.

    • @Dean Buscher, Something you all have to keep in mind is that most agencies are not placing the media so they only know general terms like consumer magazines but don’t know which ones and the insertions per month. So you should estimate based on usage but sometimes circulation is hard for the buyer to come by. Food for thought.

      • @Suzanne and Amanda, I am not sure how you can estimate without the parameters I have defined. I guess you can bill for the creation and bill after for the usage ya? Guesstimating is a a dangerous slippery slope, and erodes your position as a photographer. I dont reccomend it.

  15. You you could edit the blog name title A Photo Editor – Ask Anything – Social Media – What Is Your Definition And What Should Someone Charge? to something more suited for your blog post you make. I enjoyed the blog post still.